RGGI clean-energy consortium brings $94Million to Maine since 2009



By Ramona du Houx

 Maine earned $1,984,834.37 in The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) 39th auction of carbon dioxide allowances. RGGI is the nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and is viewed as a model for other regions.

 “RGGI is working well and still helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation,” said State Representative Seth Berry, the House chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

There are multiple benefits from RGGI. The cap on emissions curbs greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere, while the money raised by selling carbon credits funds efficiencies further reduces emissions. Businesses and customers who directly receive grants or funding through programs can see their energy costs decrease. Large grants can help leverage private funding.

 Since RGGI’s inception Maine has brought in $93,893,930.64 for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. Many of these programs and projects are managed through the Efficiency Maine Trust, set up by the Baldacci administration.                           

"RGGI's quarterly allowance auctions send a signal to the market, while at the same time generating proceeds for reinvestment,” said Katie Dykes, Chair of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “States' investments of RGGI proceeds have generated consumer benefits through programs including clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, and direct bill assistance. The flexibility afforded to the states to invest according to state-specific needs and goals is an important feature of the RGGI program.”

The auction generated $51.4 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2 allowance auctions amount to $2.89 billion.

The March 14, 2018 auction was the first auction of the fourth control period. RGGI compliance is structured based on three-year control periods, the fourth of which started at the beginning of 2018 and will last until the end of 2020. At the end of the control period, covered entities must provide one allowance for each short ton of CO2 emitted during the period. They also must provide allowances equal to half their emissions at the end of each interim control period (the first two calendar years of each three-year control period). 

“RGGI participation helps our states to reinvest in a cleaner and more resilient energy system. Recently, new states have become interested in participating in our program and sharing these benefits,” said Ben Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “The RGGI states are eager to share information about our program with any state that is interested, and especially look forward to further discussions with Virginia and New Jersey.”

In Maine, the program first started when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had lawmakers introduce a bill. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House.

Lobster fisherman want RGGI to protect their livelyhoods-

With ocean acidification on the rise Maine’s lobstermen are worried and have become proponents of RGGI. “Since RGGI’s inception in 2009, we have seen a 35 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants and substantial investments in energy efficiency across Maine,” said Richard Nelson a lobster fisherman and member of the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission and the Maine Regional Ocean Planning Advisory Group. 

Because of Climate Change snow sports which are intergral to the North East may be endanger-

Rising temperatures across the globe are causing shorter seasons, unpredictable storms, and troubling predictions for future winters. We need effective tools to quickly combat climate change and protect the future of skiing. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is just such a tool.

RGGI reduces carbon by 2.5 percent each year. The revenue from the sales of the carbon allowances are invested in the clean energy economy.  Since its initiation, RGGI has successfully:

  • Slashed global warming pollution from power plants in HALF
  • Invested over $2.5 Billion in renewable energy
  • Created $5.7 Billion in health benefits including preventing 600 premature deaths, 9,000 asthma attacks and 43,000 missed days of work.
  • Created $3 Billion in economic benefits including creating more than 30,000 job years.

“While actions to address climate change are stalled at the federal level, our states are enjoying the benefits of a transition to clean energy and we will continue to invest in preserving our environment and our economy for future generations,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

During Governor John Baldacci’s tenure his energy office developed a 50-year energy plan to help make the state energy independent. Many of the plans components of were implemented before Governor LePage took office, like becoming a member of RGGI. 

Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for offshore wind farm implementation - increasing wind energy was a big part of Baldacci's energy adgenda. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels while bringing clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants for weatherization of homes and to help new alternative energy innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine. RGGI was a major part of the 50 year energy plan

The prototype VolturnUS offshore floating wind platform and tower designed at UMaine with Dr. Dagher's team was initially funded by state bonds . 

RGGI History —

The first pre-compliance RGGI auction took place in September 2008, and the program became effective on January 1, 2009.

RGGI made history that day becoming the country's first mandatory, market-based program designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The program set an initial regionwide emissions cap of 188 million short tons a year from 2009-2014, then reduces that cap 10 percent overall by 2018.

Fossil fuel power plants with a capacity of 25 megawatts or greater — a little more than 200 — are required to purchase the carbon credits to offset their annual emissions, with one credit equaling one short ton.

In Maine, six power plants are required to purchase credits.

In 2003, governors from Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont began discussions to develop a regional cap-and-trade program addressing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

On December 20, 2005, seven of those states announced an agreement to implement RGGI, as outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Governor's of Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. The MOU, as amended, provides the outlines of RGGI. New Jersey is opt-out of the program under Governor Christie’s leadership, but is now poised to return.